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Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros series preview

The gauntlet through the last two World Series champions starts now.

Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After what should have been a series victory/possible sweep of the Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Indians head to Minute Maid Park to face the Houston Astros for the weekend. Oh joy.

Looking ahead

The Indians take on the Astros for three games this weekend before heading to Wrigley for two games against the Cubs. They’ll then head back to Cleveland to face the Astros again in a four-game set. The Astros, on the other hand, will fly out to California to face the Giants for two games before heading back to Cleveland.

Pitching matchups

Friday, May 18 8:10 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. Charlie Morton (RHP)

Mike Clevinger has been consistently excellent for the Tribe this season. Outside of a couple of games, he’s been lights out for the Tribe in each one of his starts. So far this season, Clevinger has thrown 53.1 innings and has allowed 16 earned runs while walking 14 and striking out 44 (which translates to an ERA+ of 169). His most recent start came on May 12 against the Kansas City Royals; in that game, Clevinger went 7.2 innings and allowed just 2 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 0 and striking out 5.

Charlie Morton is on pace to have his best MLB season by a wide margin. He’s allowing fewer than a base runner per inning and he’s striking out 11.5 hitters per 9. He’s got multiple pitches that can get batters to either swing and miss or ground out, including his top 3 pitches (4-seam, sinker, and curve). Both his 4-seam and his sinker sit in the upper-90s while his curve sits in the upper-70s/low-80s. So far in 2018, Morton has pitched in 48.2 innings and has allowed 11 earned runs while walking 17 and striking out 62 (which translates to an ERA+ of 194). His most recent start came on May 12 against the Texas Rangers; in that game, Morton went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 7 hits while walking 0 and striking out a season high 14.

Saturday, May 19 4:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Dallas Keuchel (LHP)

Corey Kluber has been as good as, if not better than, every other pitcher in the American League thus far in 2018. Because Corey Kluber typically starts off a bit slow and takes a while to ramp up to his normal Corey Kluber self, it was incredible to see him pitch so well in April and into May. So far in 2018, Kluber has pitched in 65.1 innings and has allowed just 17 earned runs while walking 10 and striking out 61 (which translates to an ERA+ of 194). His most recent start came on May 13 against the Kansas City Royals; in that game, Kluber went 7.0 innings and allowed zero earned runs on 8 hits while walking 0 and striking out 4.

Dallas Keuchel was the best pitcher in the AL back in 2015 when he won his first Cy Young award; now, he’s not even the best pitcher on the Astros (see Verlander, Justin). He continues to use a multitude of different pitches (his sinker and change-up, for example) to get hitters to ground out, so be wary of double play balls against Keuchel. So far in 2018, Keuchel has pitched in 58.0 innings and has allowed 20 earned runs while walking 15 and striking out 45 (which translates to an ERA+ of 127; yeah, he’s still fantastic). His most recent start came on May 13 against the Texas Rangers; in that game, Keuchel went 7.0 innings and allowed 0 earned runs on 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.

Sunday, May 20 8:08 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP)

The MLB leader in complete games takes the Sunday game against the Astros. Cookie has continued to be the complement to Corey Kluber in 2018; in 59.0 innings, Carrasco has allowed 24 earned runs while walking 13 and striking out 57 (which translates to an ERA+ of 124). His most recent start came on May 14 against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, Carrasco went 6.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.

Lance McCullers Jr. has been the “worst” starter on the Astros this season, but he’s still been above average. He’s what we all wish Josh Tomlin could be. He throws hard with his mid-90s 4-seam and sinker and his upper-80s change and curve. So far this season, McCullers has thrown in 52.0 innings and has allowed 21 earned runs while walking 21 and striking out 58 (which translates to an ERA+ of 109). His last start came on May 14 against the Los Angeles Angels; in that game, McCullers went 6.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6.

Players to watch

  • Carlos Correa - Carlos Correa has been right around where you’d expect him to be this season, which is right in the middle of the Astros’ offense. All of his stats are right in line with his career norms, with the only difference being his trade-off of soft and hard contact with more medium contact. He’s also going to the opposite field as opposed to pulling the ball. This season, across 183 plate appearances, Correa has a slash line of .281/.372/.497 (which translates to a wRC+ of 136).
  • George Springer - Springer is having a fantastic year, perhaps even better than his 2017. After leading the Astros with 34 home runs a year ago, he’s leading his team again with 8 so far in 2018. His walks are down, but so are his strike outs. His BABIP is right in line with his career average, so it’s not unreasonable to expect this level of production to keep going through the summer. Springer’s current slash is .287/.351/.483 (which translates to a wRC+ of 129).
  • The whole dang bullpen - The Astros have a fantastic bullpen. Coupled with their amazing rotation, it’s easy to see why they are considered by many to be a favorite to repeat their championship run. The bullpen collectively has thrown 113.1 innings and has allowed just 37 earned runs (or a 2.94 ERA). Compare that to the Cleveland bullpen, where Zach McAllister and Dan Otero combined have given up 26 earned runs in 31.1 innings. The Houston bullpen is led by closer Ken Giles (who’s actually been one of the worst relievers in their ‘pen: 13.1 IP, 6 ER, 0 BB, 11 K) followed by Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, Chris Devenski, and Will Harris.


Battle of the Rotations

Thankfully, Cleveland misses both Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the two best starters for the Astros this season. But the other three are all fantastic in their own right. Conversely, Cleveland doesn’t have to send Josh Tomlin up against the Astros and instead get to deploy Kluber, Carrasco, and Clevinger. All told, this should be a fantastic weekend of starting pitching on both sides. Which is related to...

Don’t get in a Battle of the Bullpens

Cleveland needs to beat up on the Houston rotation if they have any hopes of taking this series. Depending on the starting pitcher, Cleveland will have the advantage. But as soon as the starting pitchers get pulled and the bullpen arms take over, the momentum immediately shifts in favor of Houston.

Francisco Lindor for a three-peat

Francisco Lindor has currently won the AL Player of the Week honors two weeks running. I’d really like to see a bonkers weekend to put him in contention for what I’m pretty sure would be the only player to ever be awarded in three consecutive weeks.

Houston Astros roster



How many games will the Indians win against the Astros?

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  • 6%
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  • 24%
    (52 votes)
  • 44%
    (92 votes)
  • 24%
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209 votes total Vote Now